April 18, 2012 § 2 Comments
This is a straightforward, easy-peasy recipe that has four ingredients and comes together in a minute flat. Thanks to the avocado, I like to think of this creamy, vegan shmear as a hybrid pesto and alfredo sauce.
A note about the above photo: South Tucson greenhouses are teaming with ripe, cherry tomatoes and zucchinis. As the bounty of winter brassicas and greens wanes, I’ve started loading my canvas bags with these (Sonoran) spring fruits and vegetables. My latest kick? Zucchini pasta. That’s right. I’ve been cranking one of these suckers. I’ve dabbled with many different “noodle” preparations, but here’s my favorite method that yields flavorful, al dente “noodles”: Saute a half-cup early onion/scallion with a lot of garlic and a generous pinch of salt in a wide-brimmed sauce pan. Saute until wilted and fragrant (just a minute or two) and add zucchini “noodles.” Toss until heated through and coated with oil, garlic and onion. Remove from heat; add sauce; serve warm.
2 cloves garlic
2 cups basil
juice of a lemon (about 1/4 cup)
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until combined. Add additional lemon juice to thin, if necessary. Toss with zucchini or grain-pasta and serve immediately. Leftovers keep two days.
Diet Notes: SCD-safe, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free
March 24, 2012 § 1 Comment
It’ll be nearly 90 degrees in Tucson today. With the advent of the near-double digits, the end of March calls for tank tops, margaritas and the last of the winter greens, herbs and recently-harvested pecans and dates. I’ve made this salad six times in the last two weeks — for potlucks, for the fam and just for me. My friend James is a big fan of the dates. My mom says the feta takes the cake. (A sidenote: My dad likes this salad best when I tuck a few pieces of south-of-the-border avocado in between the leaves.)
The dressing is my favorite part, so I’ve put a “sketch” of my method, below. I unceremoniously shake all the ingredients together in a ball jar to emulsify and then taste-test using lettuce leaves, often adding a bit of additional acid (citrus/vinegar), salt or honey.
Ingredients for the Salad:
10 cups winter greens
1 cup fresh herbs (dill, basil, parsley, cilantro)
1/2 cup scallion, chopped
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
3/4 cup dates, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Ingredients for the Dressing:
juice of a few citrus fruits (grapefruit, orange, lemon, lime)
a few glugs of white balsamic vinegar (apple cider vinegar is good, too)
hefty pinch of salt
10 cracks of pepper
a dab of dijon mustard
a long drizzle of honey
a few cloves of garlic, minced
stream of olive oil, to taste
Method for the Salad: Layer greens and herbs at the bottom of a large serving bowl. Top with scallion, pecans, dates and feta. Dress just before serving.
Method for the Dressing: Combine all ingredients in a glass jar and shake until thoroughly incorporated and emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings/acid/oil as needed.
Diet Notes: Gluten-free
March 10, 2012 § 4 Comments
My mom claims that this salad is how I’m going to make my first million. (Bless her.) This slaw is creamy, crunchy, tangy and a little sweet from the basil and avocado. I’ve made multiple batches of it this week so that at any time of day, a forkful is mere seconds away. That’s right: even the slaw leftovers are good (not gloppy). Give it a try. I’ve never been so emphatic about a brassica recipe in my life. In fact, it actually takes the cake — literally. I ate a second helping of this cabbage salad instead of a chocolate coconut muffin, hot outta the oven. (Recipe coming.) Now that’s sayin’ something.
6 cups cabbage, shredded
2 avocados, sliced
1/2 cup basil, ripped
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup plain kefir (or tangy, sharp yogurt)
2-3 tablespoons lime juice
1 large clove garlic, minced
salt, to taste
1. Cut cabbage into thin strips. Place in a large bowl and salt lightly. Toss and set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, prepare the dressing. Whisk until thoroughly incorporated. Taste and adjust lime juice and salt as needed.
3. Chop scallions and rip basil. Toss with cabbage. Slice avocados and dunk in the dressing (to prevent browning). Drizzle dressing and avocados over cabbage. Toss carefully until cabbage is coated. Eat immediately or chill until serving.
Diet Notes: Gluten-free, nut-free, SCD-safe
November 3, 2011 § 4 Comments
We have 22 containers of pesto preserved in the frosty depths of our freezer. Even though I’m a pesto-eating champ (case in point: for snack-time I eat dollops of pesto on carrots; I pour an extra quarter-cup on top of my already-seasoned pasta), I’ve run out of Tupperware.
Instead of processing my most recent harvest into a sauce, I dried it. That way I’ll have basil-flavor handy for dishes where pesto is unwarranted (do those exist?) or when the green goddess shmear runs out.
Home-dried basil is a zillion times more potent and scrumptious than its cardboard-flavored cousin on the spice rack in the supermarket. What’s more, when you dry it yourself, you make bank. (CHA-ching!) To illustrate: We have multiple basil plants in our garden. On average, one plant will yield three to four harvests of 9-12 cups of basil leaves. I harvested all of what you see above & below from one plant. Two weeks later I had over a pint of dried leaves. This week I’ve used my dried basil in two soups and a frittata and the taste is to-live-for-good. Here’s how easy it is:
STEP 1. Snip-snip: When harvesting basil for pesto, for cooking or drying, cut back the whole plant, stems included. Giving your basil plant a big haircut will allow the plant to regrow stems, preventing them from hardening and turning woody.
STEP 2. Clean as a Whistle: Gently wash each stem in a sink basin full of water to remove any dirt or dust. Give each stem a little shake and let them air dry on the counter top for several hours.
STEP 3. Twisty-tie Time: When the leaves and stems have dried, group stems into bundles and turn upside down. Use a twisty-tie (or hemp or strong string) to tie the stems together at the base. I usually tie four or five stems in each group. Be mindful not to group too many stems together; there should be some breathing room between each stem so that all the leaves can properly dry out.
STEP 4. Forget about ‘em: Clip each bundle to a drying rack (like below) or use a string and tie each bundle to a hanger. Place in a cool, dry place for a couple of weeks.
August 19, 2011 § Leave a Comment
It’s Friday and it’s pizza night! While five-minute-pizza dough most certainly has its merits, if you have a hankering a gluten-free pizza alternative, grind up some beans (or buy ‘um ground) and whip up a socca tonight.
Soccas are like pancakes on MiracleGro, except they’re in the savory camp and don’t necessitate maple syrup dredging. They require only a couple of ingredients: ground up garbanzo beans (garbanzo bean flour), salt, a splash of olive oil and water. I’ve been adding dried herbs from our garden, too. While soccas are great plain, hot out of the skillet, they also make a toothsome base for a pizza. Our favorite toppings include garden zucchini, caramelized onion and fresh-picked cherry tomatoes.
1 + 1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon Italian spice blend (rosemary, sage, parsley, basil)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup water, cold
1. Grease oven-safe skillet. Place in cold oven. Preheat oven & skillet to 350 degrees (or 325 on convection).
2. In a bowl, whisk together garbanzo bean flour, salt and spices. Add olive oil and water and whisk vigorously until all clumps dissolve.
3. When oven is preheated, carefully remove skillet from oven and add batter to skillet slowly. Be mindful of hot, splattering batter. Place back in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, until the top is golden and slightly brown around the edges. The sides will receede slightly from the edges of the cast iron.
4. Remove from skillet and place on baking stone or sheet pan. Top with favorite pizza add-on’s. Bake five additional minutes and one minute (keep a close eye) under the broiler to make the cheese bubble.
Diet Notes: Gluten-free, vegan, nut-free
July 28, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Being a native Tucsonan, I’m not the kind to get sappy or nostalgic over summertimes. I’ve bolted out of the desert each June and July since high school, fleeing to higher elevations, running water or — in the case of Guatemala — cities with giant floods and goosebump-nights. About a month ago, shortly before I left for Santa Fe, I mopped my brow as I tried to yank out the pernicious mint crop that reappeared between my tomato plants. It was nearly 8am and nearing double-digit temperatures; after some ferocious tugging (that proved futile), I stomped up the garden steps and told my sun-bathing dog that I’d like to fast-forward through the rest of summer thank-you-very-much.
As with all blanket statements, that one was spoken a bit hastily. As tempting as Fall sounds at the heat of the day (or heat of dawn), it occurs to me that skipping summertime would yield a lifetime of mealy roma tomatoes from Safeway. In the southwest, we eat our first tomatoes in May; along the east coast, we eat them in August. Regardless of where you slice your tomatoes, you won’t be making salsa unless it’s toasty outside or you have a greenhouse at your disposal.
This soup is my summertime staple. There are few ingredients, so make sure they’re high quality. Heirloom tomatoes are key. Here’s a tip: At $5.50 a pound, heirloom tomatoes can be pricy to chuck into a soup. My remedy is to stop by the farmers’ market and ask for “sauce tomatoes.” Sauce tomatoes are the squishy guys — the ones that are marked down to a buck-or-so a pound that farmers can’t sell alongside other pristine specimines. These tomatoes may have a bug hole, a sunken top, a deformed edge or they might be a mutant. Stock up on a few of these blemished fruits for your soups. The flavor is outstanding.
P.S. I like this brand of farmer cheese that you can find in specialty food stores. (For those on the SCD diet, this cheese is a-okay.)
Ingredients for the Soup:
3 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped (approximately 2 cups)
1 medium, yellow onion, chopped
10 garlic scapes (or 4 cloves), minced
½ tablespoon butter
½ tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons pesto
sea salt & pepper, to taste
few basil leaves, for garnish
Ingredients for the Farmer Cheese Topping:
8 oz. Farmer Cheese (dry curd cottage cheese)
2 tablespoons pesto
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 small cloves garlic, minced
sea salt & pepper, to taste
1. Heat butter and olive oil in a large pot on medium-high heat. When hot, add onions and garlic scapes and sauté approximately 10 minutes until onions are wilted, but not caramelized, and scapes are al dente, but not completely tender. If using garlic cloves, sauté onion only and add garlic just before adding the heirloom tomatoes.
2. Chop tomatoes in large, ½” hunks. Add to onions and scapes and reduce heat to a simmer (medium-low). When the tomatoes have loosened and lost some of their liquid and shape, add the pesto. Continue simmering for 10-15 minutes until scapes are tender, the tomatoes have completely lost their shape and the soup is liquidy.
3. While the soup simmers, prepare cheese topping. Combine the farmer cheese with pesto, minced garlic, thyme and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning. (I often add an additional spritz of lemon or a pinch of sea salt at this stage.) Set aside.
4. When soup has finished cooking, remove from heat. Serve into individual bowls with a dollop of herbed cheese on top. Enjoy leftovers up to three days; this soup also freezes and thaws well.
Diet Notes: SCD-safe, gluten-free
May 15, 2011 § 1 Comment
While my aunt skied down frosty slopes in Southeast Alaska this past week, my mom and I ate kumquats picked from our baby tree and harvested our first cherry tomato. The horse trough gardens are teeming with leafy explosions of zucchini, a bright orange pepper, tomatoes up the wazoo and a dozen overzealous herbs (a few of which are nearly bolting). To pay homage to the last of our winter harvest, I whipped together a simple garden coleslaw so that we could taste the inherent flavor and sweet tang of this maroon-y brassica. This isn’t a recipe per se; rather, I gathered what looked best in the garden and threw it into the salad. It is a fantastic riff off of the usual sweet slaw of summer.
1 small head red cabbage
handful of herbs (dill, parsley, basil) — approximately 1/3 cup chopped
2 early onions, chopped on the diagonal
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon mayo
juice of one lemon (approximately 1/4 cup)
sea salt, pepper to taste
Thinly slice cabbage in ribbons. Toss with chopped herbs, sea salt and pepper. Add liquids (lemon, mayo and sour cream). Stir until combined and chill until served. Best eaten cold, prepared several hours (or overnight) in advance.
Diet Notes: Gluten-free, nut-free
October 11, 2010 § 1 Comment
With subtle hints of autumn floating through my open windows, with cool winds swirling through the rest of the Lower-48, and frosty gales sweeping through the northern-most countrysides (it’s 24 degrees at my aunt’s house in Alaska!), it seems appropriate to post a hearty, comforting, chalk-full-of-good-stuff fennel-tomato-squash-peas-beans-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-stew. This recipe is tweaked from Saveur. While the majority of the recipe follows standard soup guidelines — saute vegetables in shifts, add water and seasonings, boil, simmer, re-season — the beginning of this recipe is slightly different:
Instead of sauteing an onion with soup aromatics, we pulverize the onion along with garlic, a little olive oil and a handful of herbs and then saute in an un-seasoned pot (no olive oil glug at the bottom) until all the water evaporates — all this before adding the next shift of vegetables. This technique creates a thicker broth and richer flavor. This soup is marvelously flexible. If you don’t have butternut squash, cubed sweet potatoes make an excellent replacement. Add a few cups of cheesy tortellini to the mixture; try cannelini beans instead of garbanzos for a creamier texture.
Start-to-finish, this soup can be ready in a half hour. However, I recommend prepping this soup at least 12 hours before serving (overnight is ideal). Let the pot hang-out, untouched, on the back-burner after it’s cooked, allowing the flavors to meld. When it comes time to eat, reheat, doll out ladles of stew into separate bowls and sprinkle a generous amount of fresh Parmesan cheese on top. Very good paired with crusty sourdough bread, dredged in butter and roasted garlic.
One final note: I prefer the taste of roasted butternut squash over boiled. Prior to making soups that feature butternut or acorn squash, I often roast the squash chunks in olive oil and sage leaves and then add the cooked squash to the stew toward the end of the cooking process. However, if you’d prefer to forgo that step — and it will still taste marvelous if you do — skip the roasting and add the raw squash when adding carrots and fennel.
2 cups cubed butternut squash
olive oil, sea salt, pepper
8-12 sage leaves
1 yellow onion, large
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup basil, loosely packed
1 tablespoon + olive oil
5-6 medium carrots, chopped
2 heads fennel, sliced
1 + 1/2 cups whole plum tomatoes + juice, roughly chopped
2 cups garbanzo beans, cooked*
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen and thawed
few handfuls spinach or arugula, optional
Parmesan cheese rind
1 -2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
sea salt, pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated, for topping
*For those following a strict SCD diet: Swap garbanzo beans with dry white beans, lentils or black beans after 1+ month symptom-free. Soak dry beans 24 hours before cooking to remove excess starches.
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cubed butternut squash with a coating of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and sage leaves. Roast for 20 minutes, until softened. (You can do this the night before or day-of.)
2. In a Cuisinart or blender, pulverize onion, garlic, basil and 1 tablespoon + of olive oil. When the onion reaches the consistency of a slightly-chunky, translucent chutney, stop blending. In a large pot, pour onion mixture and heat on medium high until all water evaporates (approximately 5 minutes).
3. Meanwhile, chop carrots and fennel. (If you choose to forgo roasting the butternut squash, chop squash now.) Add carrots and fennel (squash, optional) to pot when onions begin to turn brown. If the bottom of the pot looks a little dry, add a few drips of olive oil or a splash of water. Saute until slightly-crisp, about 7-8 minutes.
4. Add 4 cups of water, plum tomatoes and juice and 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans. Add Parmesan rind and simmer for 15-20 minutes. When carrots and fennel are al dente, add peas, roasted squash and a few handfuls of spinach or arugula to the pot and stir. Add 1-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, sea salt and pepper to taste. Cook 1-2 minutes and remove from heat. Let sit, preferably for 12+ hours, lid on. Before serving, reheat and remove Parmesan cheese rind. Garnish each bowl with a generous handful of fresh, grated Parmesan cheese.
Diet Notes: Gluten-free, nut-free, SCD-safe (see asterisk)
September 23, 2010 § Leave a Comment
A couple of weeks ago my days were nutty – living in limbo, looking for housing and preparing for a workshop on the other side of the country. Finally, I’m starting to settle. I’m living a few-minute bike-ride up the road from campus, living out of a dresser (no suitcase!) and am no longer in “eat-down-the-fridge” mode. This past week I’ve indoctrinated my little kitchen with experiments. On the sweet-side: I’ve whisked black tea leaves and autumnal spices — my first attempt at homemade Chai tea. I’ve made granola bites for pre-run snacks. Last night I made an experimental pumpkin-spice simple syrup to stir into this morning’s coffee. But while I undeniably have sweet teeth in the most plural sense, I’ve also been craving a home-cooked meal. After two weeks of pre-packaged vegetarian sushi lunches and carrot & hummus snacks from pre-made hummus tubs, I’ve been looking forward to an evening when I can chop my own herbs and use up my late-season garden veggies. Two nights ago I struck gold with a light wrap — perfect for a hot summer night. Instead of using a tortilla shell, I used lettuce leaves to sandwich my black bean & millet salad. Each bite was spiked with basil and parsley, hints of lemon, two types of mustard and sesame. I’ve eaten this hot for dinner and cold for lunch and I can’t pick a favorite.
Millet is a killer grain — a creamy or fluffy alternative to rice, depending on how you cook it. It’s packed with protein and B-vitamins to boot. Here’s a nice Dr. Weil article with tips on how to cook millet.
Inside the Wrap:
1/2 cup millet, dry
4 medium carrots, chopped
pinch sea salt, black pepper
4 small early onions (or 1 large onion)
3 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups black beans, cooked
1/3 cup basil, loosely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, loosely chopped
For the Wrap:
2 large lettuce leaves per person
1/4 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt
1 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon whole grain mustard
pinch sea salt, black pepper, to taste
1. Chop carrots. Pick through dry millet and remove any debris or small stones. Using a 3:1 ratio of water to dry millet, fill small pot with slightly more than 1.5 cups of water. Add carrots and millet. Bring to a boil; lower the heat to a simmer and cook, with a lid on, for approximately 20-25 minutes until tender.
2. Meanwhile, chop onion and garlic. Heat splash of olive oil on medium-heat. When hot, add onion and saute until wilted and slightly brown (about 6 minutes). Add garlic and saute until fragrant (about 1 minute). Remove from heat.
3. Chop herbs and combine with beans in a large bowl. Add onion & garlic mixture. Whisk dressing together and set aside.
4. When millet is cooked through, remove from heat and add to beans & herbs. Pour dressing over the top and toss. While hot (or at room temperature, or cold) scoop large spoonfuls of the millet mixture onto open lettuce leaves. Roll and eat like a wrap.
Diet Notes: Gluten-free, nut-free
August 19, 2010 § 3 Comments
Last night I pulled into the driveway, eased my accordian-legs out of the car and began to unload: I yanked out my sleeping bag, a bathing suit, a suitcase full of tangled clothes and a freezer bag full of road snacks, trailing beach sand and Redwood twigs across the floor. A week and a half ago, I headed westbound toward California where I spent the next 10 days hop-scotching across the state. I took a dizzying drive up Route 1 where I photographed my first glimpse of Elephant Seals. I baked a nectarine and peach crisp in an old gas oven in the middle of the Redwoods. I ate Bibimbop out of granite bowls in Oakland, sipped coffee at the famous Tartine Bakery in San Francisco (and spent hours in this marvelous bookstore) and caught up with new friends from Guatemala and old friends from early college days. I also visited a gaggle of cousins, aunts and uncles and on my last night, I read poetry and ate chocolate truffles with my great aunt at the end of a warm, Pasadena day.
It’s been a marvelous close to a summer teeming with new experiences and ideas. And like all good things, I’m left feeling bittersweet: a bit glum at Summer’s end, and, at the same time, a bit renewed with the smell of freshly sharpened pencils in the air. Time to get back in the saddle and get back to work at the university.
Fortunately, I ate my way through California with gusto (I may have discovered the most delicious blueberry muffin on the West Coast). But I’m excited to re-tie my cooking apron and use up the last of my summertime garden vegetables.
I made this recipe just before I left for California. It calls for asparagus and spinach — two vegetables I had frozen from a springtime harvest. The lemons, basil and onion came from the garden. This recipe is a breeze to throw together and packs a delicious punch from the citrus and cheese. I enjoyed it best heated, just a smidgen.
1.5 cups pasta, uncooked*
1 large onion (about 2.5 cups chopped)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 cups asparagus, chopped
2 cups spinach, chopped and cooked (about 6 cups raw)
2 cups cannellini beans
juice of 1 lemon (approximately 1/4 cup)
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup basil, loosely packed, ripped
sea salt, pepper
*For gluten-sensitive, choose brown-rice or quinoa pasta.
1. Heat a pot of water on the stove with a generous pinch of sea salt. When boiling, add pasta, lower heat slightly and cook until al dente.
2. Meanwhile, chop onion horizontally in long, thin strips. Heat a large skillet on the stove and begin to saute the onions until crisp and brown (about 7 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. While onion is sauteing rinse and chop asparagus and spinach. After onion has browned, add asparagus and cook until bright green (approximately 3 minutes) and then add cooked spinach and cook until heated through (approximately 1 minute). Alternatively, if using raw spinach, add at the same time as asparagus.
3. Toss asparagus and spinach with feta cheese. When pasta is cooked, don’t drain the pasta water! *The reserved water can help loosen the pasta if the pasta clumps with the vegetables.* Scoop pasta out of the water with a slotted spoon and toss with vegetables. Squeeze lemon juice, add beans and toss. Taste and season to preference. If necessary, add a spoonful of reserved pasta water at a time to help loosen the pasta salad. Serve at any heat or chilled — slightly warm is my favorite.
Diet Notes: gluten-free (see asterisk), nut-free